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The 3 Sides of the Community Coin

by Mario Sundar  |  
April 10, 2007

Recently my good friend, web strategist and community marketer, Jeremiah Owyang, had an insightful post on how to understand community manager role better. Jeremiah should know, given his experience at defining the role at his previous stints.

Since moving into my new role as Community Evangelist at LinkedIn, I thought I should take a stab at distilling Jeremiah's seven rules, with some inspiration from Hugh Macleod's post on the Porous Membrane, where Hugh talks about why corporate blogging works.
So, here's my take on the three components of marketing communications or marketing conversations:
1. The Community/Customer (B)
Hugh calls B the customers. I'd like to take it one step further and see them as the community, especially since we're talking about a product/service that is "common, public, shared by all or many". Now, there are some products that may not have as active a community (Enterprise Servers, anyone?), as the consumer-oriented ones (iPods).
Irrespective of that, the community manager will firstly have to be a customer evangelist thereby being able to identify with the community and its needs.
2. The Membrane (x)
Quoting Hugh:

6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as "x".
7. Every company's membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.

I'd like to think of the Community Evangelist as the one who connects the two entities A & B. They are the individuals entrusted with the task of pushing that membrane, aligning A and B and aiming for marketing Nirvana. And did I mention, they also help humanify the company.
3. The Troops (A)
This is the seemingly less important but critical component whose participation in the conversation is imperative. This would include your product, engineering, and customer support teams as Jeremiah elucidates. The more aligned the two groups, A and B are, the easier it'd be for the evangelist to start & keep a smart conversation going.
And, it's not always an easy task as evidenced by recent missteps, even from Fortune 500 companies.
Do you've an example of a community manager role at your company to share?

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Mario Sundar has over five years experience in leadership roles both in Marketing as well as in Software Development. Mario currently works at LinkedIn, the World’s largest online professional network, as Community Evangelist. Prior to that, he helped develop & manage marketing initiatives for Fortune 50 high-tech brands. Mario is also on the board of the American Marketing Association (Silicon Valley Chapter).

In May 2006, Mario launched his marketing blog where he discusses customer evangelism, community marketing and social media strategy. Ranked as one of the fastest growing Wordpress blogs in July 06, “Marketing Nirvana” continues to expand its readership each week. The blog currently (as of 04/07) has a Technorati Rank of 7,113 and an Alexa Ranking of 142,830.

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  • by Ron E. Tue Apr 10, 2007 via blog

    Hey Mario, interesting stuff... Personally I usually include (either within the Consumer side, or as a whole new group) the "consumer-group". This is the new formed group that comes as a result of bonds between members. From what I've seen (as I'm sure most of you) once a community bond is formed the whole consumer base acts accordingly (to not bluntly say differently). As if they have a new consciousness and behavior patterns. Just my two cents, Ron E.

  • by Valeria Maltoni Tue Apr 10, 2007 via blog

    There is an interesting discussion on the treatment of membranes vis-à-vis the psychology of human relationships in a book by Toru Sato. It's titled 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit'. If you can get passed the title, you will learn about how we construct relationships, steal and give energy to each other, and human development. I think, ultimately, that's what you're talking about. Conversations taking place in groups. The separation to me indicates the different focus and language adopted -- i.e., insider and outsider; technical expert and audience; producer and consumer. All in fact, part of the same community and population, under different names/banners.

  • by Mack Collier Tue Apr 10, 2007 via blog

    Mario I think you can break down the customer group further into those that have little to no loyalty to the product, and the other end of the spectrum, those that evangelize the company/brand/product. I think the key is to empower the evangelists to let them work their magic in the customer community, and to also give the community a way to conversate with the company. Both the company and the community have different views on how each should interact, and each have their own sets of wants and needs. But when the two groups start to communicate, they begin to understand each other, and slowly their wants and needs begin to align. The marketing becomes more efficient, because the company is speaking more in the community's voice, rather than their own. But you know all this, which is why LinkedIn was smart enough to snap you up ;)

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